On Monday evening at the Queens Lake Community Association pool, a storm delayed the season-opening Virginia Peninsula Swim Union meet between the Queens Lake Eagles and the Windsor Great Park Waves, giving Branch Fields an opportunity to reflect on the pool or league records he set as a youth swimmer.
As rain poured, Fields stood under a shelter that separates the Queens Lake pool, that was constructed in the early 2000s with Queens Creek serving as a picturesque backdrop, from the much smaller one he swam in as a child in the 1980s. For a split second, he turned to the record board half expecting to see his name when asked if he still held any records. Then Branch remembered that the first names on the board had changed. His 16-year-old son Noah and 12-year-old son Elijah completed wiping dad's old times out last summer when Elijah erased the 11- to 12-year-old 50 butterfly mark that Branch set in 1981.
VPSU can be ultra competitive, as Branch Fields noted, but family and friends are what make it special. The nostalgia that accompanies each meet or practice is palpable for families like the Fields.
"My kids are living the childhood that I lived, basically," Branch Fields said. "They really are, except for cellphones and iPads, and technology. Other than that, it's riding a bike down to the pool or even walking."
"You see the same people every year, and the kids just have such a good time together," said Mary Lynch, the wife of VPSU president Ted Lynch and Queens Lake helper.
Their son Evan is a rising junior at Bruton High, where he won a pair of gold medals for the Panthers in last season's Virginia High School League Group 2A championships. Two of Evan's Queens Lake teammates, Jenny Schuster and John Morrow, also won individual titles for Bruton and should help make the Eagles a formidable opponent this summer in the top flight of VPSU.
The Kingsmill Sharks and Kingswood Klams tied for the Division 1 title last season before the Greensprings Gators won the championship meet for a fourth consecutive season.
When Branch Fields attended Bruton, the school did not field a swimming team, so summers in the pool took on greater meaning.
Monday's matchup between Queens Lake and Windsor Great Park pitted two of the oldest VPSU teams around against each other.
Queens Lake was founded in the early 1960s, several years before VPSU came into existence, and the Eagles didn't join VPSU until 1985 from the Greater Peninsula Swim Association after more teams in Williamsburg sprouted up.
That information comes courtesy of Mark Downey, who has held about every role at Queens Lake one who is involved with summer swimming possibly can. The 50-year-old moved to the neighborhood at age 2 and never left.
"The most important thing I find about summer swim and VPSU is it really builds a community," Downey said. "This is a chance for everyone to come together and enjoy their neighbors, their teams. Some of my best friends now are people that I grew up swimming with. It's unique in that situation where it really brings a community together."
The larger Queens Lake squad won Monday's matchup 188-93 over Windsor Great Park.
Around 2,000 swimmers comprise the three-division league, which features a new team this season from Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex.
Windsor Great Park of Newport News resides in the third division. Coach David Reed, the head coach at Woodside High, wouldn't want to coach in another neighborhood.
"It's just about the camaraderie of the team," Reed said. "It's still competitive, but it's a lot more about bringing the community together for a positive thing."
Yet, the Fields family reminds us that perspective often comes with age.
Noah fondly recalled his father spending time with the boys at the pool, giving them a few pointers. Meanwhile, Elijah is focused on making sure his name stays on that record board as long as possible. He won two races Monday and so did Noah.
Their 9-year-old sister Trinity won three.
"I just want to get all the records on the Queens Lake team before I can't," Elijah said. "I'm hoping they won't get beaten for a while because some people have records from like 50 years ago or something … I kind of want that to happen with me."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.